Google X is Google’s R&D department that is heavily veiled and concentrating on “moonshots,” which it depicts as something that is totally innovative; potentially an enormous new revenue stream to balance its mega profit producing search business; and something that will be of benefit to hundreds of millions or, preferably, billions of people.

Google X employees 250 people and researches the possibilities of numerous projects for the likelihood of success. Its head of development said it would prefer something that has a hint of science fiction to it. It looked at teleportation ("Beam me up, Scotty!") and decided although it is cool beyond words, but it was not yet scientifically possible. 

Three of its more promising projects are:
1. Google Chauffer, which are driverless vehicles. One has driven over 100 miles on the Pacific Coast Highway, which is particularly curvy, with no driver. I saw one last November on Google’s Mountain View, CA headquarter campus; it was a Lexus RX Hybrid.
2. Google Glass, which is essentially a computer worn like a pair of glasses that may also eliminate those rectangular smart phones we are all awkwardly stuffing in our pockets
3. Project Loon is a network of hot air balloons that will provide Internet services to the two thirds of humanity who do not have web access now

Fast Company magazine recently published an article written by the first reporter ever given personal access to Google X, and he asked what else Google might be working on that looks promising. He received an evasive answer, but it was focused on transportation.
Some of the greatest successes coming from Silicon Valley, Austin and now Silicon Beach (between Santa Monica and Venice, CA) have completely disrupted tried and true businesses. Books, music, phones, tablets and now television have all astonished us. I just bought an Amazon Fire for $99 and it is a fantastic way to see free media without commercials on my TV.

The world’s logistics networks, not including the movement of people, are now estimated to exceed $3 trillion a year, about 1/5th of the total GDP for the USA. So there is certainly enough money involved to qualify as a moonshot.

When considering what Google X may be contemplating, there are a couple of announced or test situations that may provide clues:
1. Amazon is exploring the use of drones for delivery and their CEO, Jeff Bezos said they were getting close to that reality in a presentation April 16, 2014
2. Google Shopping Express (GSX) is offering same-day delivery at zero cost to the shipper or receiver in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley Bay Area. They have bought and are operating dozens of Toyota Prius vehicles which are now liveried with the GSX logo
3. Google bought Skybox and according to the Wall Street Journal, they have formed a new division to launch 180 satellites at a cost of over $1b. The new division is called O3B Networks and directly refers to the 3 billion people on the planet that do not currently have internet access.

Could Google be on the verge of disrupting the transportation industry? Before beginning to answer, take a new look at Google Earth that now has 3D, canyons, under seas and far flung galaxies in addition to your home town and mine.

A little mind trick I sometimes use is called reversing the telescope to look through the proverbial big end of the scope in order to identify possibilities. In this case, I came up with the biggest problems that transportation has not yet overcome:

1. Transportation is simultaneously labor and capital intensive. Reducing either one significantly would be a huge win. Driverless vehicles in mass could certainly reduce labor. Eliminating one of these will open the market to many more players.
2. Transportation is one of the biggest users of fuel. Solving or reducing it considerably would also be a huge win for the planet. Google X’s Project Loon involving large hot air balloons could be a smoke screen to cover some kind of zeppelin that would move freight at a significantly lower fuel rate. If they were 300 yards long, they would cost much lower labor and capital expenditures while burning less fuel (zeppelins do not have to follow roads). As bizarre as it may seem, it would certainly fulfill the mantra of Google X ambitions.

If the research and development (R&D) by Google X cracks the code on something huge, it will in itself disrupt major corporate thinking that has essentially buried long term R&D because of the focus on quarterly results by public corporations. If hundreds of our biggest corporate entities were thinking and investing longer term, we could quit worrying about any other countries’ designs on how to separate us from our money and freedom. That would be the kind of disruption we could all herald as game changing progress.

This is all obviously conjecture based on a few facts, but the world is rapidly changing and things like this are on the benefit side. At the very least, if the satellites involve three billion more people, the market grows exponentially.
How much fun is my work writing this? Use your imagination and you will still underestimate it.

Rob Shirley is CEO of ExpresShip, a strategic consultancy in the global supply chain. Contact him at or